2010 contributors' picks: News & politics
Best expression of cross-party support for Canada’s Prince of Pot
On March 15, 2010, three members from the three major federal political parties introduced in the House of Commons petitions signed by 12,000 people opposing the extradition to the U.S. of Vancouver-based marijuana activist and self-styled Prince of Pot Marc Emery. These were Vancouver East NDP MP Libby Davies, Vancouver South Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, and Conservative MP Scott Reid of Ontario. The Conservative government ignored them. On May 20, Emery, who paid taxes for his marijuana-seed business, was handed over to American authorities at the Washington state border. A federal judge sentenced him to five years in prison on September 10.
Best imitation of sheep
Vision Vancouver park-board caucus
It’s amazing how Aaron Jasper, Constance Barnes, Raj Hundal, and Sarah Blyth never disagree on anything. Where else but within Vision Vancouver would you find four politicians who vote in unison on everything that comes before the board. And we mean everything. These four make the Soviet Politburo under Leonid Brezhnev look like a house divided.
Best example of double or triple or quadruple Vision
Jonathan Ross, who has been an adviser to the Vision Vancouver park-board caucus, runs a rabidly pro–Vision Vancouver blog that frequently machine-guns critics of his favoured party. The blog was financed by a Vision Vancouver–supporting company that gets untendered taxpayer-funded contracts from Vision Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. Ross, a former campaign manager for Vision Vancouver council and park-board candidates, has obtained contracts from this company that financed his blog, but that Web site has absolutely no connection to Vision Vancouver. None whatsoever. You got that?
Best smackdown of a rival civic party
Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson was in his best form when he commented on the choice of venue by the Non-Partisan Association for its April 28, 2010, annual general meeting. For the second year in a row, the once-mighty civic party, which was almost wiped out in the 2008 municipal election, picked the Museum of Vancouver. Stevenson said: “There’s a very poignant reason why you would have it in a museum if you’re the NPA, because you’ve now become part of the museum.”
Best political prevaricator
Surrey mayor Dianne Watts
After the City of Surrey recently approved the construction of a massive electronic billboard to be operated by the Pattison Group as part of a larger project to construct yet more such eyesores (which are expected to reap $2 million to $3 million per year for the city’s share of their advertising revenue), Mayor Dianne Watts had this to say about the offending structure: “It’s not a big billboard; it’s an electronic sign.” This reminds us of the French ambassador to New Zealand’s remark to reporters years ago following another of his country’s atomic-bomb tests in the South Pacific: “I do not like this word bomb. It is not a bomb; it is a device that is exploding.”
Best politician named Robertson whose first name isn’t Gregor
“Dunbar Ian”, the other politically moderate, pragmatic Robertson in local politics, has to be one of the nicest guys in the wafer-thin NPA ranks. I mean, he’s got the coolest haircut since Ivan Lendl, has a cellphone he answers almost on first ring, and always seems to have time to chat at busy meetings. That said, he’s had his detractors, not least when he leaves the path of moderation and veers into political weirdness. In these days of BP oil spills and peak oil that surely mean we should explore ways to reduce fossil-fuel dependency, Robertson attacks the Vision Vancouver movement on grade-separated bike lanes. Way to go, Ian! All the way back to Jurassic Park he goes in this June 15 NPA media release: “Vision Vancouver has allocated $25 million to bike lanes that less than [four percent] of the population will use, but they cannot find money for summer programs for Vancouver’s kids.”
Best carbonated city councillor
Others in the punditsphere have tried to make hay with the label Carbon Cadman, in reference to the purported air miles logged by the three-term COPE councillor whose real first name is David. We say this is erroneous, as the prize has to go to Carbon Jang. Nobody does more for the four-wheeled status quo than “Aw, shucks, me?” newbie Jang. In a caucus filled with two-wheeled cyclists, Jang is the one who will proudly state “I’m a driver.” And it took Coun. Tim Stevenson to get him to take a bike-safety course this year, on a rented bike. So Stevenson is teaching Jang how to go green. Clearly, Jang has a long way to go.
Best political game of Catch Me if You Can
Forget Waldo. At least if you search long and hard enough, you do eventually find the bespectacled geek hiding in the crowd. B.C.’s arts minister, on the other hand, could give Sesame Street’s Snuffleupagus a run for his money as far as accessibility is concerned. Throughout a season of slashed B.C. Arts Council budgets and cancelled gambling grants, Kevin Krueger remained steadfastly unavailable for comment, dutifully shielded from the Straight by his Public Affairs Bureau staff. Straight editor Charlie Smith did manage to corner him once, last October 2, at the Vancouver Convention Centre following an address by Premier Gordon Campbell at a Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. No sooner had the exchange begun than it was over, with Krueger storming off, accusing the Straight of bias and retreating to his cone of silence.
Biggest buzz in local news casting
There probably couldn’t have been a bigger surprise in the world of local newscasting over the past year. CBC News announced on April 12 that one of the best-known faces in B.C. news, former Global News anchor Tony Parsons, would be joining the CBC News Vancouver team. Parsons, who left Global (formerly BCTV) after 34 years, replaced Ian Hanomansing on the 6 p.m. news with Gloria Macarenko. (Hanomansing had recently moved on to CBC’s The National.) The 71-year-old Parsons continues to do double duty for the evening news by anchoring CHEK-TV’s 10 p.m. news as well.
Best non-English-language TV journalist
Omni's Kang has blazed a trail by breaking stories about domestic violence, problems at Surrey Memorial Hospital, and sexual-assault charges laid against a prominent leader at a Sikh temple, all of which were picked up by the mainstream media. Besides, he’s the only TV journalist with a Facebook fan page devoted to his “perfectly round goatee”. Take that, Tony Parsons.
Best non-English-language TV commentator
Guo is the bespectacled, scholarly-looking man you’ll see interviewing Chinese community leaders on Omni as you channel-surf in the evening. Most people who don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese aren’t aware that the Shanghai-born Guo has written several books dealing with history, politics, immigration, and international affairs. Guo’s newspaper columns have appeared in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan as well as in local Chinese-language publications. Yes, he can speak Japanese as well as Cantonese and Mandarin. After all, Guo had to learn Japanese in order to become an academic expert on Japanese newspaper coverage during the Second World War. That’s in addition to his deep understanding of political reform in modern Taiwan and his extensive knowledge of Sino-Japanese relations. If only our English-language broadcasters had his credentials.
Vancouver’s deputy police chief, Doug LePard, struck the right note this summer when he tossed away his prepared remarks, looked straight ahead, and offered a frank apology for his department’s failure to catch Robert Pickton earlier. “I wish that all the mistakes that were made we could undo, and I wish that more lives could have been saved,” LePard said on July 30. It was a refreshing moment of humility and candour that won’t soon be forgotten.
Best magazine cover
We would like to point to all those faaaantastic covers of the Georgia Straight over the past 12 months. But because that would be a conflict of interest, we’ll choose the newest issue of Laverne Procyk’s West Coast Winds instead. It features shirtless former premier Bill Vander Zalm wearing boxing gloves and Everlast trunks, ready to enter the ring to fight the harmonized sales tax. Procyk swears there was no photoshopping done on the image. If not, the Fight HST leader has a better body than almost any other 76-year-old in the province.